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Denis Pickles
Thursday, July 6, 2006 18:04
Peter Fergusan Wilcock
Some of you may remember my childhood friend, Peter Wilcock, who before emigrating to Canada with his parents in 1948, lived in Hazel Grove. Peter was a very bright lad and before he died at the tender age of 41 yrs, he had the distinction of being appointed Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta. So highly was he rated, that a library was named after him!

Rummaging among some papers the other day I came across some pages of an autobiography that Peter had started to write before his death. Sadly, the work was never to be finished, but the chapters covering his childhood in Sutton are pure nostalgia - memories of a village lad who grew up during the war. I thought that I would share a few pages with you. So here goes! some of Peter's recollections of the Baptist Sunday School and The Band of Hope.

"In Sunday School we were coached in the sober, hard working, no-joke approach to fundamental Baptist living. Wereally learned the Scriptures in those days, often from my grandmothers brother Willie Laycock; one of the Superintendants. Willie had a loud voice too and sang in the choir. That same resonant voice rang with fervour as he told us of Lazarus, lepers, publicans (who we associated with bar keepers and bartenders - so possibly did Willie0 and sinners. It was 'fear the Lord' coming across loud and clear in basso-profundo.

Fortunately, the other teachers were less impressive and could be moulded like soft clay by the mood of the class from Sunday to Sunday. From primary classes in a cosycarpeted side room, we later joined the main school in a fairly large hall and met one of the senior superintendants, Mr Walter Thompson, fondly known as 'Walt' to anyone over the age of 4 years. Walt had a deeply held, yet simple faith which he expounded in a deep voice with a very broad Yorkshire dialect. He was a striking figure, with white close cropped hair anda Shavian white beard and moustache. Like all Baptist lay preachers, my grandfather shared this attribute. He loved hymns, the more martial the better. In factthere is little doubt that the rise of the non conformist churches like the Baptists in the 19th C coincided with and benefitted from the militarism of the Victorian age. Soldiers could march to battle, and probably did, to the rousing strains of 'Onward Christan Soldiers' or 'Stand Up Stand Up for Jesus, Ye Soldiers of the Cross'. As wartime children we thrived on these hymns conducted by the current superintendant of the Chapel for that Sunday, singing at the tops of our soprano voices, and we would have been ready o do battle with anybody, even the'Churchers' from up the road, probably hudled in fear in their cold church of England!

Walter's main aim in life was to slay that ever-lurking dragon, the monster 'drink'. By day he was the fairly prosperous owner of the 'Peg and Lag 'Oil', a wood cutting and turning shop on the outskirts of the village, turning over a good profit in the war. But by night, he was the leader of the Band of Hope - the local temperance union. Almost single handedly he beat the drum of Temperance in a village graced by three good sized pubs and a large proportion of working class, thirsty citizens. I say almost single handedly, because he was aided by his wife, whom he referred to fondly as 'Mother Thompson'.

With great shrewdness and with a business man's practicality, he concentrated on the children of the village. He worked his magic Through Band of Hope meetings, usually in the winter months on weekday evenings. They lured potential sinners by showing films advertised personally by Walt in the schools. The word spread quickly and widely. At 7 pm on the 'big night' swarms of children from surrounding villages, every denomination and even infidels with no religion, clamoured before the large doors and stone steps of the Sunday School. With such a motley collection holding divergent views on lifestyle, it was inevitable that small clashes should take place and these Walt and wife always anticipated, came early and with gentle tones pacified one and all. To do so he merely had to produce the key to the door, which like a magic wand, calmed the rabid throng and opened the portals to cinematography.'

To be continued (if requested!)


caroline campbell
Thursday, November 1, 2007 18:28
hello Dennis, I'm interested to learn more about Walter Thompson and the name of his wife, from your message he certainly seems to have been a character. I am interested to find out if there is any link between him and my grt grandad Walter Thompson born 1879 or one of his sons also Walter who lived in Sutton.

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